A newly released matched study reveals racism in hiring patterns in New York City restaurants ( photo credit: ktylerconk ). Matched studies, like the one used in this research, are basically field experiments in which pairs of applicants who differ only by race (or sometimes gender) are sent to apply for housing, seek services or accommodations, or, in this case, apply for jobs.
In this study, economist Marc Bendick, Jr. sent pairs of applicants with similar résumés and matched for gender and appearance; the only difference in each pair was race.
Bendick found that white job applicants were more likely to receive followup interviews, be offered jobs, and given information about jobs, and their work histories were less likely to be investigated in detail than their black counterparts.
If you’re one of the many graduate students who read this blog and you’re contemplating what to do for a dissertation, consider a matched study. We need more of them and this type of research gets well-reviewed in the top sociology journals. Another recent matched study in sociology is the one that Devah Pager did for her 2003 AJS piece, “The Mark of a Criminal Record.” In this research, Pager matched pairs of individuals (again with similar résumés and matched on gender) applied for entry-level jobs—to formally test the degree to which a criminal record affects subsequent employment opportunities. The findings of her study reveal that a criminal record presents a major barrier to employment; and with regard to racism, Pager found that blacks are less than half as likely to receive consideration by employers, relative to their white counterparts. Perhaps most disturbing in Pager’s research is the finding that black nonoffenders, that is African Americans with no criminal record, were less likely to get a job than whites with prior felony convictions.
Matched studies, such as the just released Bendick’s study of hiring in restaurants and Pager’s classic study of entry-level hiring of those with (and without) the mark of a criminal record, are important social science research for investigating the persistence of racial discrimination in hiring practices.